Traditional open-air (location-based) games like Hide-and-seek or Capture the flag brought hours of fun to many of us when we were kids. Then consoles and computer games came along and suddenly the only location you played in was the living room. Today integration of smartphones and geo-location is about to change it and combine the real and virtual worlds. Although Mobile Location-Based Gaming is an area where developers have just begun to scratch the surface in terms of what’s possible, it is one of the fastest growing and interesting trends among LBS.
What is there on the market?
- Treasure hunts (e.g. Geocaching)
- Territory defense and claiming (e.g. Please Stay Calm, Shadow Cities, Fleck, MyTown, GeoWars, Life is Crime)
- Scavenger hunts (e.g. City Secrets, SCVNGR, Bounty Island, iSpy)
- Role playing game (e.g. GeoHunters)
- Mixed themes (e.g. Parallel Kingdom)
The other popular type of Location-Based Gaming are scavenger hunts. It is the best way of tying a game in with a real-world experience is what location-based games are all about for Greg Gerber, founder of iSpy. His iPhone game is based on the children’s game of “I spy”. A player takes a picture of a real world object, say, a statue in a city and uploads it to the game. Then, other players take on the task of finding that statue (they get an approximate location of the geotagged photo—a circle is projected onto a map, and it contains the object within a radius of a few city blocks). When they do find it, they take a picture of it with the cell phone’s camera and upload it, thus “solving” the game.
Where is it all going?
It is surely interesting field with a huge potential but all depends on profitable business models. Foursquare for example although rapidly growing is struggling to monetize the user database. Justin Beck – one of the founders of Parallel Kingdom says that in-app purchases and the fact that user spend on average fairly long time playing everyday creates profitable revenue source. We’ll see soon where it is all going.